April Reflections

April has been a great month! I’ve wholeheartedly accepted my permission to self to crochet, crochet, crochet and it feels fabulous! I’ve even sold one of my Barbie dresses, which was not my intention but a most pleasant surprise! I’ve opened a (very casual) custom order book via my Facebook page, to which I may add other items in the future.  

I haven’t been writing here as much as I’d planned, but having a young family, my time is mostly not my own, and crochet comes first when I have to choose ☺ I did want to finish the A to Z Challenge before the month is out though, so I’ve wrenched myself away from my beloved Clover Amour and settled down in my hammock on the verandah with a cup of roiboos and vanilla tea. Obviously I’m not following the post-a-day rules here but I hope I’ll be forgiven! 

S if for…Skills. My goal is to one day create my own crochet patterns, and to that end I’m very focussed on honing my skills in all areas. I’ve recently started studying Dora Ohrensteins The Crocheter’s Skill-Building Workshop – still in the early chapters as yet but looking forward to sharing my progress through this widely acclaimed book. There are over 70 swatch patterns included as learning tools and I can’t wait to get stuck into them!

T is for…Tunisian Crochet. I recently purchased a lovely book called 35 Crocheted Bags by Emma Friedlander-Collins. I was inspired to buy it by the gorgeous tapestry crochet bag on the front cover (pictured below). I’ve never attempted tapestry crochet, so I was delighted to find a couple of smaller such projects in this book and think they’ll be a great starting point. Hope to share my adventures in tapestry crochet soon!

U is for…Unicorns. I have to crochet one! Or two – my daughters would be so delighted, like all little girls they love them. I’ve shied away from amigurumi in the past, because I thought it was all micro-crochet – tiny hooks and thread, which my eyes would struggle with (I’m just getting used to bifocals). However, a friend recently explained to me that it’s not about size, it’s about stuffed animals and toys in general. So, I’m going to look into amigurumi soon – starting with unicorns!

It’s Sunday afternoon and time to go down to the beach with my family soon and enjoy some of this beautiful Autumn sunshine – after a little bit of crochet, of course! I’ll finish my remaining letters during the week. Until then, happy hooking!

Crochet Learning Curve

It seems to me that crochet will always be a learning curve. How marvellous! Always new stitches and techniques to discover, and inspiration everywhere requiring new skills…I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – crochet is amaaaaaaazing! The possibilities are endless, the opportunities for creativity without limit!

However, sometimes I learn things that are more to do with avoiding unnecessary blunders – mistakes or omissions I’ve made that waste time and / or yarn, and make me swear. Today, more than one ‘notes to self’…

Firstly, keep a notebook. Date and name each wip, including yarn using and hook size. I always have multiple wips, and today I returned to an old one and when I finally located the book with the pattern, and set about hooking, I realised I’d neglected to clarify which language it was in and mixed UK and US terms. Consequently, my mandala (pictured; pattern from the gorgeous ‘Mandalas to Crochet’ by Haafner Linssen) refused to lie flat. Snip-frog-grrrrr-frog! I learned to crochet in US terms but follow patterns in either. With many wips on the go, it’s easy to get mixed up.  From now on, I’ll be writing US or UK in my notebook every time. In big letters!

Secondly, keep tools in order! All my hooks lie jumbled in the bottom of a small sewing box or wherever I happen to put them down. I have a few of most sizes, but my very favourite are my Clover Amours, of which I have just four, and covet more. It took me at least ten minutes to locate my 4mm this afternoon (in use for multiple wips) – so frustrating when time is especially precious in the school holidays! I looked in various baskets and shelves and eventually found it in the bottom of the sewing box, which is where I’d looked in the first place but of course, so messy I missed it. I’ll be sorting all that out this evening, along with said baskets and shelves in my crochet corner!

Lastly (for now – like I said, always learning!), read the pattern through until the end before beginning, or at very least check if there is a list of Special Stitches. I was so happy to reach the final round of my mandala today, only to discover it was crab stitch, unknown to me. Forewarned is forarmed! With the help of a Moogly video clip (always my go-to) I am once again making progress, however, and hope to turn this wip into a FO by day’s end πŸ™‚

Old-fashioned, Preschool, Quiet, Running

Once again attempting to catch up with the A to Z Challenge during school holidays!

O is for…Old-fashioned. Most people seem to hold the view that crochet is a very old-fashioned pursuit, the domain only of elderly ladies making doilies, and baby blankets in pastels that hark back to a bygone era. Indeed, when I started hooking two years ago, my husband declared in horror, “You remind me of my Oma!!” Please note, I have all respect for the Grandmas and their work! However, it is a reflection of only one part of the crochet world. Modern crochet is amaaaaaaazing and there are hookers of every age hooking everything imaginable, from bright baby clothes, homewares and children’s toys to fashionable adult clothing and vibrant, quirky street art. Old-fashioned, it is not. Crochet rocks!

P is for…Preschool. My youngest daughter turns five in November, so this is her last year of preschool. She attended four days a week during school hours in Term 1, but we’ve made the decision to cut back to two days going forward. Now that my mental health is so great, I really no longer ‘need’ those extra days. It’s a huge deal for me to come to a decision like this – I’d never have imagined it possible not so long ago! Plus, I am increasingly aware of how quickly time is rushing by. She will be at school before I know it, and I want to make the most of the time that’s left. Doubtless there will be days when I regret my decision! However, I know I will have no regrets come next year. A pleasant side-effect is that it halves the fees. Yaaaaaaaarn! Nuff said 😁

Q is for…Quiet. It took me decades to realise that I’m an introvert. Pushing myself into an extrovert box caused me great anxiety in hindsight. Now I’m comfortable with the fact that I find too many people over too much time in one go overwhelming. I know it about myself, I recognise the effects, and I actively seek my quiet to counteract them. I am a sociable, bubbly, friendly person, but I do relish and require my time alone. Having small children, and no extended family support (we are relatively recent immigrants), time alone is pretty hard to come by, especially in school holidays! We’re past the midpoint now and yesterday morning I was feeling increasingly cranky and quickly identified the reason why. Luckily my husband has some time off this week, and I was able to jump in the car and drive to town for an impromptu haircut, a mini-massage, hot chocolate in a cafΓ© and some yarn shopping – blissfully alone, all quiet inside my head. This introvert is now recharded and ready for a fun family day out today 😊

R is for…Running. A huge part of my life and worthy of a whole other post. In fact, I’m going for a run now. More on this at a later date!

Twisted Granny

I started out making a giant granny blanket for my six year old daughter at the start of the school holidays. I wasn’t hooking intentionally in the beginning, just busting some stash and enjoying the colour changes very much. Experimenting with white was fun too, as it’s not a colour I often work with. I only began thinking in terms of a blanket as it grew, and although I was a little daunted by the time and money involved, I started to aim for a double bed throw. 

Unfortunately, it started to twist really badly, because I hadn’t known to flip it. Flipping is working RS/WS alternately to avoid the twist – thank you Google and Fluffy Pink Unicorn!

I attempted to knock the twist out of it by blocking it on my yoga mat  with quilting pins and water spray. After some time I managed to work it square.

I left it for 24 hours and with high hopes, started flipping. Two rows in the twist was back. Gutted! You really need to flip from the start, not least because it creates a slight ridge, which is not at all unattractive but was not then consistent with previous rows. What to do?! 

Fortunately I remembered seeing a picture of a wrap-around granny square cushion cover on Instagram, and managed to track it down. I was directed to a brief tutorial by The Patchwork Heart, and my blanket changed direction πŸ™‚

It’s so colourful, it just makes me smile – and my daughter is delighted with it 😊 I think I even prefer the back to the front.

A happy solution to a project gone wrong!

Kitchen, Love, Meditation

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Still school holidays and the A to Z Challenge has beaten me on a daily basis but I will catch up in brief here – cheating I know but better than nothing is my feeling πŸ™‚

K is for… Kitchen. I need to be in there more. I mean I am in there every day feeding the hordes but I really need to get back in there with intention. I’ve taken my eye off the ball with the wholefood eating since being ill, we’re not eating junk (always avoiding processed for the most part) but we’re eating very plain and basically, could do better. Especially me, I had no appetite when ill and just feeling so uninspired. Food is more than energy – as Japansese farmer and philosopher Fukuoka Masanobu says,Β food and the human spirit are united.Β Time for soul food. I’ll be getting the recipe books out in coming days.

L is for…Love. So much love in my life and I am so grateful. I really struggled in the early childhood years with my girls. My mental health was very poor and I was in survival mode a lot of the time. Now I’m able to enjoy them and it’s a wonderful feeling to be simply bursting with feelings of love when I’m with them, as opposed to knowing that I love them but just feeling so overwhelmed and anxious every minute of every day. Last week I decided to cut my youngest daughter’s preschool days by half next term, because I don’t ‘need’ the extra days. That is a huge step forward for me and such a great feeling. Doubtless there will be days when I wonder what possessed me to do such a thing πŸ™‚ But I know that when she goes to school next year I’ll have no regrets about it at all.

M is for…meditation. I’m meditating less, but still daily, using Insight Timer. I also consider crochet to be a kind of meditative therapy, and I am certainly doing a lot of that! I am over two months off my antidepressants and still going great, but ever vigilant. I’ve learned a lot from the many guided meditations I’ve done over the past 120 days and I often find myself stopping less than constructive thoughts dead in their tracks. If I start to feel anxious, I am well able to bring myself back into the present moment, where I am safe, and all is well. Today I am feeling confident that so long as I remain vigilant and proactive with regard to my mental health, all will continue to be well. So grateful!!

N is for…needle case. I made the Moogly Nifty Needle Case, pictured above, over the weekend and I love it! It’s so cute and I’m using it every day. It is also my most popular Instagram picture ever, with over 200 likes. My Instagram account is gaining a following. I dream of sharing my own patterns with my followers, as well as linking up to those of others! One day. Meantime, I keep calm and crochet on πŸ™‚

WIP Wednesday

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Unsurprisingly it turns out that school holidays are not conducive to a daily blogging challenge, a fact I had not considered when I started the A to Z Challenge! WIP Wednesday is here already, so I’m going to combine the two and cheat a little with the A to Z by condensing. Without further ado:

F is for…Fledgling crochet designer. Gawd, it took guts to write that! It’s what I really want to do – design and share my own crochet patterns. Thus far, only a mini jar cover and several relatively simple blankets have come out of my very own head, but I have a ton of ideas percolating. All I want to to is create with my hook. And so, I shall!

G is for…Goals. I’m goingΒ to blog and crochet intensively for the next twelve months without guilt, fear or shame. This means writing a weekly post (at least), and crocheting every day with intention. It also means immersing myself in all things crochet, including Ravelry, Instagram, and other crochet blogs. Giving myself daily permission to do the things that bring me joy is a huge deal for me, and fixingΒ an end point makesΒ it easier for me to allow myself this focus. At the end of the twelve months, I’ll see where I’m at.

H is for…Honing my craft. I’m constantly challenging myself to learn new crochet skills. Some days a simple, traditional granny square meets all my needs and limitations with regard to, well, real life not including crochet! (How dare it intrude, right?!) But I’m always learning new things too – I cannot bring my designs to life if I don’t have the skill set I need to turn my sketches into reality.

I is for…Instagram. I’ve been on Instagram for about two years, irregularly posting pictures of my crochet mostly, and sometimes my garden or something running related. It’s only in the last month or so, however, that I’ve really got into it as a tool for sharing my crochet and meeting other people in the crochet world. In all honesty it took me a while to figure out how to make it work for me. And I LOVE it!! I am so wildly inspired every day by the amazing crochet art out there.

J is for…Joy. Creating, in the form of crochet, brings me joy, pure and simple. I derive so much pleasure from the process, as much as the end result. Simple stitches and patterns soothe me; complexity challenges and satisfies me. I just love to hook!

Which brings me neatly round to the WIP of the Wednesday! It’s school holidays as I mentioned, and that means something simple that I can just pick up as and when, no complex pattern, no thought required, just rounds of happy yarn to give me my crochet fix as I move through the holiday crazy. A blanket for my six year old’s bed, pictured above. Not my usual colours, I don’t tend to go for much white, but I was stash-busting when I started and as it grew, I realised what it should be. Of course I then had to buy more white yarn – Β oops massive stash-busting fail! But of course, I can live with that πŸ™‚

Being Just Mum

E is for emigration is where I began this afternoon as part of the A to Z Challenge, but I confess my heart’s just not in it.Β I’ve been ill for a fortnightΒ and have been ordered to take antibiotics and rest, as a cold has turned to bronchitis. Am feeling a tad sorry for myself at this point if I’m honest, but there is a silver lining, dare I confess – I am not allowed to go away in our little caravan with my family for the weekend. It is the first time in almost seven years that I have been home alone overnight! When I shared my delight at the sick note with the pharmacist, she looked at me aghast, and said that on the contrary she’d be devastated to miss a family camping weekend. Momentarily, I felt like a Bad Mother. Then I remembered that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks; and she works while I don’t. I’m a stay at home mum who spends a great many, sometimes seemingly interminable precious hours with my beloved yet enervating offspring. The mere thought of 36 hours without them in an empty house while they have a wonderful adventure twenty minutes up the road with their fabulous Dad and friends from school is, quite frankly, an unashamedly exhilarating prospect.

Too often in the past I have compared and contrasted my choices with those of other women, and found myself wanting or plunged into guilt. Now, I am secure in my core values and I know beyond doubt that being a stay at home mum is the right choice for my family. I wouldn’t trade it for the world and the longer I stay at home, the happier I am that this is the path we’ve chosen. Stay at home mums are not much revered in our culture, so it is just as well that I have outgrown the need for external validation!

I volunteer on the maths program at my eldest daughter’s school and on the first day one of the kids asked me what I do. I’m a mum, I said. It was on the tip of my tongue to say ‘just’, such is the conditioning of our society. Β I had my children in my late 30s, I’m tertiary educated and worked for an American multinational for a decade before emigrating to Australia, and becoming a barefoot in the kitchen country mama. I often wondered what those women who were ‘just’ mums did all day, and expressed my own horror – dare I say it, even derision – at the waste of their education. Now I walk in their shoes – well mostly with no shoes but you get my drift πŸ™‚ – I get it. It took a while, and I struggled a lot adjusting to this lifestyle – losing my corporate identity and my financial independence was extremely difficult, especially at the same time as becoming a mother as a newly arrived migrant with no support network and Post Natal Depression! Β But now, I soooo get it. I get the what, and the why. And I also know that if you’ve never done it, you won’t understand any more than I used to. And that’s ok. My challenge has been to let go of my need for other people to understand me. It’s a process.

The older my girls get, the more unusual it is to be at home being ‘just’ mum for this long. I see articles on the news telling me what I do is bad for the economy, even bad for myself, according to the latest ‘studies’ apparently. I can get a bit pissed off and ranty about that kind of thing, depending on the day I’m having. But my girls are getting older now, and especially in recent months I sense them already slipping away from me. Which is as it should be, of course, and oh my god it has it’s benefits (#crochetaddict lol) – but it’s bitter-sweet, and hard to describe. The season of my life is changing, as they begin the natural process of blooming into themselves and away from me. The earliest years of their lives are a blur in many ways, consumed as I was with depression and anxiety for so much of them. I’m so grateful that I’ve developed a deep awareness of how quickly their childhood is racing by and how precious it is, and how lucky I am to be truly present for it all. I’ve gone from wishing the early years away to resolving to make the most of the time remaining, while they are still at preschool and primary school. I may be ‘just’ mum to many, but I am so very much more than that to myself and my family. And that is (more than) enough for me.

So here’s to a bloody blissfully quiet weekend, without those that I love most in the world πŸ™‚

This post is also part of the A-Z Challenge: EΒ is for…Embrace, Early Childhood, External Validation (not needed here), Enough, Empty House, Excited